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Congress Gives Alaska $150M Boost With Missile Defense Deployment

Last year, the MDA added only two ground-based interceptors to the six already in the ground at the missile field in Fort Greely, Alaska, 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks.
By Martin Sieff
UPI Senior News Analyst
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 08, 2006
Congress has given the long-troubled Missile Defense Agency's Ground-Based Midcourse-Interceptor program a financial boost, allowing it to deploy planned interceptors more rapidly, the MDA's chief has told an Alaska newspaper.

The new Defense Appropriations Bill contains provisions to shift $150 million from within the MDA's budget from other programs to fund expanded and accelerated interceptor deployment, Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry "Trey" Obering III told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner in an interview published Sunday.

Last year, the MDA added only two ground-based interceptors to the six already in the ground at the missile field in Fort Greely, Alaska, 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks.

The MDA had originally planned to add up to 10 interceptors in 2005 but the program was plagued with test failures. A review panel convened after the failure of two intercepts recommended more rigorous testing with missiles that duplicated those in launch silos, Obering told the newspaper.

"So I diverted interceptors from our silo emplacement into our test program," Obering said. "Some of those interceptors won't fly. They will stay as ground test units. What the $150 million does is helps us get back some of those interceptors we diverted into our test program and catch us back up on the emplacement schedule we were originally on.

"We will continue to build and produce and emplace interceptors at Fort Greely," Obering told the paper. For security reasons, the agency no longer will announce when it installs interceptors, he said.

However, Obering said he expected to have up to 40 interceptors deployed at Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California by the end of 2009.

Sen. Ted Stevens, first added $200 million for more interceptors and testing in the Senate version of the fiscal 2006 defense spending bill last fall. Stevens, a Republican from Alaska, is chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee's defense subcommittee.

After Senate passage Oct. 7, the spending bill went to a Senate-House conference committee. It did not emerge until just before Christmas. The conference committee cut the $200 million down to $150 million in the final bill.

In a report accompanying the bill last year, the Senate Appropriations subcommittee objected to what it said was MDA's decision to virtually abandon efforts to improve the ground-based interceptors.

Obering told the Daily News-Miner that contrary to some reports and allegations, the MDA had never stopped work on the ground-based interceptors. The agency was upgrading them, he said.

"So what we meant was that the next major upgrade of the (ground-based missile defense) program from a kill vehicle perspective would be that MKV," Obering said. "We can take those 40 interceptors and turn them into an ability to counter much more complex threat suites."

Source: United Press International

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